Australia could meet as much as half of its emissions reduction target if buildings were to implement upgrades and retrofits of HVAC and refrigeration equipment.

According to Peter Bush, CEO of Aeris Environmental, the upgrading air conditioners and refrigeration systems provide the single biggest opportunity for Australia to achieve large-scale reductions in carbon emissions.

Peter Bush

Peter Bush

While green retrofits often focus on lighting systems and the installation of high-efficiency lamps, Bush points out that air conditioners and refrigeration systems comprise a staggering 22 per cent of all electricity production usage in Australia, equivalent to 42.26 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions, or 10 per cent of the total.

This share is even greater when assessment of energy consumption is confined solely to built assets.

“In any given building HVAC represents on average 52 per cent of the total energy consumed by that building,” said Bush.

Given these copious energy consumption levels, the gains in efficiency levels that can be achieved via retrofitting of HVAC and refrigeration systems are dramatic.

HVAC upgrades have thus become a key part of retrofits with the goal  of raising the sustainability chops of properties.

According to Bush, the retrofitting of HVAC and refrigerator systems can not only dramatically reduce energy consumption and associated utilities bills and greenhouse gas emissions, they can also extend the operating life of equipment as well as significantly raise indoor air quality.

The $2 million overhaul of a C grade commercial office tower at 20 Macquarie Street in Parramatta completed last year managed to halve energy usage via raft of efficiency measures, chief amongst them the installation of a new HVAC system consisting of a zoned variable refrigerant flow system.

The system came equipped with over 50 diffusers scattered throughout the building, as well as a range of sensors to monitor air quality.

The 2010 retrofit of a commercial office building at 4 Mort Street Canberra also placed emphasis on improvements to the HVAC system, with the installation of a modern building management system (BMS) for more sophisticated monitoring control of air and temperature conditions.

Those improvements played a key role in enabling the 45-year-old commercial building raise its NABERS Energy Rating by 2.5 stars to achieve a score of 4.5.

While the 20 Macquarie Street and 4 Mort Street efficiency upgrades entailed major overhauls of both buildings’ HVAC systems, Bush said simple retrofits of existing air conditioning and refrigeration equipment can also be highly effective.

He noted that his company’s SmartEnergy solutions can be adapted to the existing HVAC systems of buildings to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in RAC energy usage on average, as well as dramatic improvements air flow and air quality.

Bush makes bold claims for the potential emissions savings that can be achieved by widespread implementation of the technology.

“Using data from the Cold Hard Facts Report, broad implementation of SmartEnergy presents an opportunity to achieve up to half of the total emissions target prior to 2020,” he said.